Fulbright Gender Studies Director Publishes Book on Prison Influence

Fulbright Gender Studies Director Publishes Book on Prison Influence

Fulbright Gender Studies Director Publishes Book on Prison Influence

by Megan Cordell

Lisa M. Corrigan, director of the Gender Studies Program and associate professor in the Department of Communications in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, has written a book about the influence that imprisonment had during the black liberation movement.

The book, titled Prison Power: How Prison Influenced the Movement for Black Liberation,examines how the imprisonment of many activists played a huge role in the shaping of their personal and political ideals during the Black Liberation Movement. Corrigan highlights how prison became an important place of influence in the transition from the Civil Rights movement to the Black Power movement.

Prison Power explains how this transition was especially important in the fight against white supremacy, as southern Civil Rights activists were facing a great number of setbacks. Corrigan explores how prison changed many activists' organizational strategies and political analysis, as well as how this change affected the way the Movement adapted to the obstacles it faced.

Using autobiographical letters, essays, and writings by Black Power frontrunners during their time in prison Corrigan argues that early imprisonment helped solidify ideology and strategy before the state began using prison as a way to quash the movement for black freedom. Where the prison had been a creative space of struggle in the civil rights movement, with the advent of mass incarceration, it became of tool of radical repression.

The famous prison autobiographies of H. Rap Brown, Mumia Abu-Jamal and Assata Shakur form the basis of Corrigan's study of how the Black Power movement acclimated to an unfriendly environment during the administrations of both Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon. Corrigan determines that through these writings, these liberation leaders used fictional stories to spread certain core principles of the Black Power movement, such as pride in blackness, the rejection of nonviolence and identity adaptions centered on black masculinity.

Corrigan fills the gaps between the studies of Black Power's history and other, similar prison studies by dissecting the rhetorical methods and tactics of the Black Power movement that began with prison politics. These dialogues show how Black Power activists changed their strategies to revive the movement, even when the FBI was attempting to upset, disgrace and eradicate it.  

"Writing Prison Power has been a very gratifying process given the tremendous support that my research has seen in Arkansas and across the country," Corrigan said. "Because the subject matter is so timely, I think any conversations that help people understand the history of black imprisonment in the United States can only help lead us towards abolition."

Corrigan will also be giving a lecture in the Department of Philosophy at Texas A&M University on Friday, Nov. 4, titled, "Orval Faubus and the Language of Segregation: Homonationalism, Sexualized Violence, and Racial Anxiety during the Little Rock Crisis."

Additionally, she will also be keynoting the annual Philosophy Born of Struggle Conference in College Station, Texas, on Saturday, Nov. 5. Her talk is titled "Revolutionary Suicide: Necromimesis, Radical Agency, and Black Ontology."

Prison Power is due to be released Nov. 1 from the University Press of Mississippi.

Megan Cordell

About the author

Megan Cordell is a senior in the Walter J. Lemke Department of Journalism and serves as a communications intern in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences for the 2016-17 academic year.